Brownies support whales and dolphins

29 July 2020

Why Are There No Captive Whales Or Dolphins In The UK?

WDC is more than 30 years old now and we are enormously proud that the UK has not held whales or dolphins in captivity for over 25 years.

However there is of course a story to tell about how this came about... 

The UK’s main commercial captive dolphin history started in the 1960s and lasted for three decades. In 1963 a Yorkshire theme park and zoo called Flamingoland was the first park to display dolphins and was also in 1993, the very last UK dolphinarium to close. In total, there were well over 30 places that held dolphins in captivity.  

And it wasn’t just bottlenose dolphins that were held captive in the UK. During the late 1970s, Clacton-On-Sea in Essex displayed orcas in a former swimming pool which was actually located on the pier! The unfortunate orcas  included one named Suzie Wong who was later followed by Nemo and Neptune. Suzie Wong was sent to Windsor Safari Park and then on to Hong Kong. Nemo also went to Windsor while Neptune died after only a year and a half in a tank. There was also another orca, an unnamed male, who died here within days of arrival in the UK. All four were captured from the wild in the ocean close to Iceland.

A dolphin in captivity

By the early 1980s there were only five captive dolphin attractions left and in 1985, after pressure from welfare and environmental groups, the UK Government looked in detail at the remaining dolphinaria and found major problems in the conditions whales and dolphins were being kept in.

The report said that if zoos and marine parks wanted to continue to keep captive dolphins then they should invest in building larger and deeper tanks by a deadline set for 1993.

In 1987, as a newly formed charity, WDC campaigned for the tanks to be closed down exposing the poor conditions in which captive dolphins were kept in the UK .  

In the end the cost of rebuilding and expanding existing tanks was considered just too much for already struggling businesses. So, in 1993 when Flamingoland announced it was shipping its last remaining dolphins to Europe, this marked the end of captive dolphins in the UK.

WDC now campaigns for those countries all over the world that still have captive whale and dolphin attractions to follow the lead of the UK, Cyprus and Finland and end this cruel practice.  We can all do our bit too by not paying to see whales and dolphins in captivity whilst on holiday.

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